PLANS to construct steel pods to house vulnerable homeless people have been approved.

On April 4 Epping Forest District councillors voted to build four pods in the grounds of Norway House, its accommodation for homeless people in North Weald.

Six people will be housed in the containers which will each have bedsit facilities, bathrooms and a shared kitchen, with the project to cost £345,000.

A further container would provide storage space.

Norway House was listed several years ago in recognition of its use as an officers' mess for RAF North Weald during the Second World War.

Dan Jenkin, the council's planning agent, said: "The proposed location of the pods provides the best usage of underutilised land, uses existing storage buildings as a visual shield between the pods and Epping Road and is the preferred location of the hostel management team for their management and surveillance purposes.

"By locating these pods at Norway House, North Weald will provide vulnerable residents with the ability to maintain contact with family and other services including doctors surgeries, employment services and on-site housing support.

"A bed and breakfast placement out of the district could not achieve the same."

Among those less taken with the plans was Terry Blanks, a North Weald parish councillor concerned with the pods' aesthetic impact and the council's admission that pod residents could have mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and bi-polar.

He said: "Over the years the grounds have been diminished by the addition of a number of chalets to the rear and a very large shed.

"The current proposals are to further litter the grounds with large shipping like pods.

"Parish councillors always contribute to a party at Norway house for the 40 to 50 children there at Christmas. It is the welfare and safety of the residents and wider communities which must be of primary concern."

District council planning officer Jill Shingler struck a more neutral note, suggesting the powder coated blue grey pods were 'pretty basic'.

She added: "Perhaps not an ideal solution but the impact from outside the site will be minimal."

The application, with ten-year 'temporary' permission, was approved by eight votes to three with one abstention.